For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a writer. Right now I am doing marketing and ghostwriting for clients and I enjoy it. But at the end of the day, when I finish writing the story for my client, someone else’s name goes on that book. And it is okay because I am learning so much. But I am so thrilled to tell you that I have my first byline with my name on it…which brings me to my first article published at HelloGiggles.
I had an idea about a month ago for an article that talked about how dating during an election–specifically this election–was a pain. My friend and fellow writer, MK, insisted that I “pitch” the idea to publications. But I put it off. It was a combination of being afraid of rejection and just not wanting to write anything about this election. But then MK forced my hand. Thank goodness she did because HelloGiggles picked it up.
Listen, I would love it if you read it. If you are on election coverage overboard, don’t worry. That’s not the thrust of the piece. Because in the time I took putting it off, my feelings of dating during an election actually changed. This is not a piece about the election or anyone’s politics. It’s how I learned a great deal about dating and myself through the recent political happenings. It’s meant to be lighthearted.
If you do click and read, thanks so much for your support. Feel free to give me any feedback. I can take it. You just reading it would mean the world…and if you feel like sharing it, that would be amazing.
When I moved to my new apartment, I ordered French Toast take-out. After the first and then the second bite, I began to weep.
It tasted so much like your French Toast–made lovingly and specially with Hawaiian Bread–I struggled to swallow around the lump in my throat. A part of me did not want to eat it. I wanted to take great gulps of water to drown the taste away. But another part of me, the part of me longing for comfort in the great mess I’ve gotten myself into in this last week, could not stop eating.
I missed you so much then, holding my plastic knife and fork, forgoing syrup because I did not want to dilute the taste of your French Toast, the taste of comfort I felt like God was offering.
Sometimes I forget that you are gone and when I remember the sadness hits me in the gut, as if I am a child fallen from the monkey bars and all the breath goes out of me. Each time this happens, it is less dramatic but it still happens regularly. It’s almost easier to pretend that you are a drive away, albeit a six hour drive, but a drive. I don’t consciously pretend but eating that French Toast, knowing and feeling your absence, I realized that’s exactly what I have been doing.
So I cried while I ate it. I cried the whole time because it reminded me of you and you are not here any longer and because I have been having such a hard time in this giant pickle and it felt like you, through this random restaurant’s French Toast, were offering some type of comfort, a kindness.
And it was comforting.
It hurt too though, because I was actively feeling, something I tend to avoid. But as I ate, slowly with tears falling on Styrofoam, I was glad to hurt. It felt healthy and right to mourn you then even as you comforted me over this stupid mess that has tripped me up. So I ate and cried because it felt right.
I cried because I missed you; I cried because I made a huge mistake; I cried because there are things I wish I could say to you; I cried because I remembered the picture of you and Nonno–two great men, both sides of my family, and me, the first grandchild for each of you–holding me with such pride and joy and youth.
I am grateful that I was first because it means that I am the eldest. It means I remember a younger and more tender version of you. I remember your bedtime stories. I remember your Lemon Soup; how I told you I liked it a lot to spare your feelings which meant you made it for me whenever I saw you. I remember how proud you were of me at every graduation and every important moment. I remember the rusty, “I love you too,” that sometimes was so hard for you to say.
You are the hardest worker I have ever known. You went through more than anyone else I have ever personally met and I know this because I listened. I asked you about things and you told me things you didn’t tell the others. I thought you could fix anything in the world; I thought you could build anything too. And you did. You did.
If you were here, you could not fix this mess. I know that.
I don’t forget that you blustered and yelled and could be grouchy too, but I do not forget the rest because to do so would be dishonest. People rewrite history when they forget your French Toast, when they don’t remember the way you would have done anything for your family or a neighbor or just about anyone you ever met. Did they ever sing songs with you like I did? Did they ever just see you as storyteller who just wanted to be listened to?
When I think about it now, I know that you loved me and were proud of me. I know you wanted the best for me and worried about me. I know you sometimes cursed me too but you were never indifferent, never unfeeling, uncaring. I know that you wanted to be loved and respected.
People can say what they like now. They can blame you for wounds, remember the hard parts of you instead of the good, even the great. I won’t do that though because it isn’t true picture of the man you were. If they endured one tenth of what you did, they would fold. I would fold. In that way, you were a prince of a man, a hero. Your shoulders bore more than any of us can even imagine, far more than you ever even told us. I do not and cannot begrudge the way you coped.
I miss you.
The ironic part is that if you were still here, I could not say that to you. I never shared my deepest fears with you or talked about my greatest dreams. You were a great man but talking about feelings was not something you knew or practiced.
So it made sense, that last week, when I did not want to see anyone or talk to anyone, because of my mess, when I did not want to talk about it, that God chose to comfort me tangibly with a part of you. You would not have made me talk about it and He did not either. He just sent me French Toast that tasted as if you had scooped it from the pan and placed it on my plate.
In high school and college, I followed politics voraciously and closely. I was up for any debate. But then I slowly took a step back, burnt out and disillusioned as the country and world became increasingly hostile and angry (as well as the lack of bi-partisanship, and frankly, aggression, between parties). I stopped following the news as closely, staying informed, but removed emotionally.
I can’t do that anymore.
It would certainly be more comfortable for me not to speak up. Many bloggers I know make the choice not to make their feelings on “issues” public (including myself). I get it; I have been there. At best, it takes a lot of energy to dialogue in a respectful way and at worst, it becomes mud wrestling in the comment section. Announcing opinions on the internet does not always leave room to change one’s mind.
Let’s face it. Who actually likes those people on Facebook who are constantly posting politically incendiary things, no matter the party? I don’t. I can’t. It’s like sensory overload. It’s easier to keep my opinions to myself, to close my computer.
But I can’t do that anymore.
You see, when I took a step back, I just expected other people to do the work. I expected others to course correct when a person or political party said something ridiculous or there was an absurd proposal. It’s not that I didn’t care. It was that sensory overload, an emotional exhaustion, and I just figured others could pick up the slack.
But I can’t do that anymore.
I can’t avoid online conflict because the fact is, whatever its size, this is a platform. And for me not to speak has officially become more terrifying than standing up for what I believe is right. Let me tell you why.
It started a few weeks ago, in the wake of the Paris attacks, when Trump* announced he thought there should be a database for Muslims (afterwards, he amended his idea to monitor Muslim refugees and “some” mosques).
Was this real? Could a front runner for president from our country’s two party system actually say (or perhaps worse, think) such a thing? My insides started to quiver. It brought to mind two instances–a hint, a faint whiff, subtle–where a group of people were monitored based on their faith or ethnicity: the days of Nazi Germany (it started as “monitoring) or what we did to the Japanese during WWII (they were forced to leave their homes, jobs, businesses, everything, to live in interment camps).**
When it comes to the latter, let me emphasize: we did that. Things like that can happen in America. Sometimes I think we–I know I do this–all believe we are a little protected because this is America. That word, this place brings to mind the Statue of Liberty, the American Dream, the Bill of Rights, and so much more. We believe we are the good guys and that we will always be the good guys.
Writing about controversies here is not fun. As a blogger, in two years, I have maybe posted five truly controversial posts and then signed my name to those posts. I’ve had plenty of opinions but I haven’t written them here. I haven’t signed my name to them.
But I can’t do that anymore.
Then there was the mayor in Virginia who said this: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
My insides began to shake, not just quiver. Could this really be happening?
This is happening here. Right here. I understand that it’s a proposal. But he’s the frontrunner for president from the republican party and to not take him seriously would be a mistake. For a long time, when he said things I found absurd, I didn’t take him seriously because I saw him as the guy who put huge letters on the building near where I worked in Downton Chicago and told people, “You’re fired” on The Apprentice. I was wrong. It’s not just polls either. People I respect, people I go to for life advice, believe he is the best candidate. I underestimated him.
But I can’t do that anymore.
I know it’s nice to go about our days. I understand it is easier to go about life as normal and I would prefer to run my errands and shovel my snow and cuss that I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store, be wary of the laundry pile, wish my kid could sleep through the night, change the sheets on my bed and curse that damn fitted sheet (or whatever your version of normal is). I understand. I do. Because I am trying to move right now and everything in my life is a mess. I would prefer to handle that and only that.
But I can’t do that anymore.
If I don’t speak, if I don’t use whatever “voice” I have, to denounce all of this, then what? What is next? Each time one of these things happened I could not believe it and yet I never expected it to get worse. But it is getting worse, increasingly so.
And so I cannot be quiet anymore.
Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook. Someone was complaining about something that the federal government does–imagine taxes, insurance, all that pesky stuff that is annoying. This person’s complaints were not out of line but then this person said something like: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this is really ridiculous.
It hit me that this translates to: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this affects me so it’s different.
This person is not an anomaly. This person is you and this person is me. Even as I write this, I am trying to put my list of things to do (rental insurance, changing my address, packing, etc.) out of my head. We care when it affects us.
But I can’t do that anymore.
These are dangerous times.
Here is a story: I fell behind in answering comments and so a few days ago, I replied to a comment originally written about the post I wrote in reaction to Paris. She said something about how crazy it is and how sad, that she can no longer think when an act of terrorism will happen but only where it would be, that these horrible events feel inevitable.
Do you realize, I wrote back, that by the time I am replying there has already been an act of terrorism, a mass shooting, in San Bernardino?
Don’t worry though. If you are Muslim and already a citizen, he isn’t going to deport you or anything.
Don’t worry though. If you practice another faith, this won’t affect you either.
Don’t worry though. They’re talking religion. Your sexual orientation, your skin color, the amount of money you make, you won’t ever be affected based on those things.
I hope you sense my sarcasm because I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him–and people like him–at all.
I’m not suggesting this is the Holocaust.** But what I will say is that Hitler did not announce out of the blue that he was putting all the Jews, the handicapped, the elderly (and others) on trains to concentration camps where they would be killed in gas chambers. It never happens like that.
It happens slowly. It creeps along, hatefulness like this. Have you ever heard the anecdote about the frog? If you boil water and put a frog in, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog in some water and turn up the heat slowly, the frog does not jump out. I can’t say whether this is scientifically sound but it feels like we are all the frog, that the water is slowly warming.
I’m a Christian and everyone is welcome here. But I am calling out my fellow Christians: we can’t do it anymore.
We cannot be silent. We cannot ignore the commands of Jesus. We cannot pretend that this is not happening. We cannot try and justify the policies of people in a certain party because we have voted a certain way our whole lives. We cannot raise our voices over abortion and not raise our voices over this. We have to seriously examine the intensity of the connection between claiming to be a Christian and not just defending the right to bear arms but an unwillingness to examine gun control in this country. We must recognize that according to the Bible we are sojourners here, that we are citizens of Heaven, and as such we are refugees too. We cannot ignore passages like this one, Jesus’s words, because it is just easier:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
A part of me does not want to publish this. A part of me is afraid. In the past, that fear would dictate whether this actually was posted.
But I can’t do that anymore.
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P.S. I tried to cite everything and use a variety of sources (because it is important to me that I am informed by a variety of sources) but since some of the things I talk about happened in the recent past and every day there is a new headline, I did the best I could.
*I wrote this before Trump’s CNN interview. I have no idea how that is going to go. Also, this is not about Trump but rather a series of events that have had me examining my own heart and the Gospel. I hope that is clear.
**I am not comparing Trump to Hitler. I hope this is obvious but I am putting this here just in case. I find that argument to be insensitive to the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust when Hitler committed a genocide against a race of people.
To ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.
You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).
In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.
What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.
I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).
I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.
I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.
And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.
So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.
All my Love,
P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…
Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.